Isaiah 54 is the Lord's Sonnet to Israel, but as with most Old Testament writings, there are applications for God's modern Lady, the Church, and personal applications for individual believers.
7 “For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
8 In a surge of anger
I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord your Redeemer.
Psalm 30:5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning (NIV).
When I tried to tell my story to one of the WOGS (Women of God) at my church, she berated me for blaming God and told me I needed to admit that God didn’t leave me, but that I had left him. There were numerous teachings saying that if you are no longer enjoying the “first love” experience that you have stopped “doing the things you did at first.” I knew that at the time I experienced the loss of awareness of God’s presence, I was still “doing” everything I had done at first. I was reading and studying my bible, praying and interceding, attending church twice a week and a ladies’ bible study once a week, and reading my devotions. I was not committing any overt sins.
To this day, I don’t have a clear answer as to why I had to go through this, but I think it had to do with my depending on my own works to maintain my relationship with God, and probably deep down comparing myself with others who weren’t “doing” as much, or who were troubled by addiction or other besetting sins, and looking down upon them. Of course, the sin of self-righteousness is the one Jesus had no patience for. And while He was patient with me for a while, He finally had to let me find out how much I could really do in my own strength.
It took a while, but I gradually drifted away. It wasn’t as much fun doing bible study when I didn’t sense the excitement of His overwhelming presence and approval. Church was more an exercise of discipline than a joy-filled celebration. I continued going because I had connections there. But when my husband put in for a transfer at his job, the move took me away from those connections and I found it more and more difficult to attend church regularly. After the next transfer, which was to Europe, I had an even harder time finding a church where I could feel comfortable. The churches on the military bases were bland, and I didn’t speak the language well enough to go to a German church. However, I kept seeing signs advertising an English speaking church in my neighborhood. God was certainly providing for me. But, being a terribly shy introvert, I allowed myself to give in to those tendencies and never attended.
Still in need of a connection, I began going to bars. It was easier to talk to people after a couple of drinks.
As I drifted further and further from my connection with the Lord, I no longer had much sensitivity to sin. My husband was becoming more and more indiscreet in his inappropriate relationships with his female employees, and possibly others. When he left for a long weekend with one of his former employees, he received a letter at home from another of his former employees. I opened and read it, and it was quite clear that he had had relations with her as well. If I had been pursuing the Lord and walking with Him as I should have, I would have been thinking more clearly. As it was, I was only looking desperately for a way out of the pain I was feeling. That weekend I also began having an affair.
There is a saying I have often heard. Sin will take you farther that you wanted to go, keep you longer than you wanted to stay, and cost you far more than you ever wanted to pay. I am here to say that it is absolutely true. The secrecy of that relationship kept me in bondage to it for years to come. I tried to end it many times, but the threat of being found out gave him control. Even after I had returned to God and to church, he continued to haunt my life off and on for about ten years.
And now, here are my favorite words in the English language. But God…but God came in like a flood and raised up a standard. But God was seeking me out even while I was off and on committing these vile acts. But God began speaking to me through Isaiah 54 even while I was still in the throes of this dreadful behavior. But God promised me that He would keep having compassion on me with everlasting kindness and reminded me that He is still my redeemer. I was again seeking Him but more importantly, He was seeking me. When I would fail, I would cry out to Him and He was there, reminding me that I would make it through, that I would overcome, that I would succeed. Then one day, I was suddenly free.
This is the reason I keep wanting to reach out to people who might feel that they have gone too far, sinned too much, or sinned too egregiously to ever be forgiven. The only sin He can’t forgive is the rejection of Jesus as Lord and Savior. The only sins He really needs to get stern with are the sins of independence, rebellion, and self-righteousness. Jesus hung out with the woman at the well who had had five husbands and was currently living with a man not her husband (John 4:1-42). He was friends with prostitutes and other “sinners” (Matthew 9:10). That doesn’t mean He endorses sin. Of course, we know He does not. But when we come to Him with a contrite heart, He’ll keep working with us until we overcome.
Questions for Personal Reflection
Have I ever felt that God had abandoned me or hid His face from me?
Are there any areas of my life in which I feel like I have control and don’t need God?
Are there things I have been “hiding” from God or from myself?
Thank you for never leaving us. Thank you that you pursue us with compassion and everlasting kindness and that you redeem us from our own poor choices. Show us any areas in our lives that we have felt like we have under control and haven’t invited you in. Redeem us from the hurts that others have caused us and any bad choices that are still affecting our lives today. Thank you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Sit in a comfortable place with no distractions. Shift your body so it is well supported. Gently close your eyes and focus on your breath, breathing in slowly and deeply and allowing your muscles to relax as you exhale slowly and fully. Take a few more deep breaths as you become more relaxed and focused.
As you relax, imagine you are in the desert. Feel the dry, hot air on your skin, the dusty earth beneath your feet. Look out on horizon. You can see for a long way. The sky is deep blue and the sun is high in the sky. The air is still. There is not much sound, except perhaps a grasshopper or other insects buzzing. You notice that your throat is parched. You are very thirsty. As you look around, you see a well. As you are drawing a cup of cool water from deep inside the well, you are suddenly aware that you are not alone. There is Someone there who is wise and kind. He looks at you with tenderness and joy, and He asks you for a drink. As you continue to relax and breathe, allow a conversation to unfold. Take as much time as you need for the Lord to reveal to you the areas in your life that need His touch. When you are ready, take a couple of deep breaths, wriggle your arms and legs, and let out a big sigh, and now you are ready to write down what you learned and what action steps, if any, you need to take.
Take a few moments to journal about your meditation experience. Look up any scriptures that came to mind. If there are serious issues in your life, whether overt sins or privately feeling independent or self-righteous, consider finding someone to be your accountability partner. This person can help you stay focused and encouraged as you surrender these things to the Lord and bring your life back into proper balance and dependence on Him.